July 15, 2016

Being well-groomed can lead to better pay, study finds

Employees who are believed to be better groomed earn up to 70% more than those who are believed to be less so, reveals a recent study.

The study, carried out over 13 years by universities in Chicago and California, and published in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, looked at the career paths of over 14,000 men and women, starting when they were still at school. Participants were interviewed four times, during which times they were asked about physical attractiveness and personal grooming standards.

The results reveal that those who are better groomed, irrespective of physical attractiveness, weight, age, or gender, are more likely to earn a higher salary than those who are not. The effect is particularly strong for women. Those who were well-groomed but not necessarily deemed attractive earned an average salary of £27,000 ($36,000), whilst those who were well-groomed and attractive had an average salary of £24,000 ($32,000).

The study notes that: “Grooming—a social activity that requires attention to social cues, investment of resources and conformity to desired social identities—is the key that provides women access to the premia associated with attractiveness. […] While good grooming is beneficial for men, it is imperative for women, and allows women to access labour market rewards regardless of how physically attractive they are rated.”

Naomi Isted, editor of an online lifestyle magazine, agrees with the findings, explaining that how people present themselves can be a good indicator of how they wish to be seen: “Making an effort shows you take care and have pride in how you look and want to be perceived. I always notice if someone takes care of themselves.”

In an article for IZA World of Labor, Soohyung Lee explores the advantages and disadvantages of investing in physical appearance. She notes that “[a]chieving greater equality in beauty through beauty-related goods and services may lessen discrimination based on physical attributes and thereby improve economic efficiency.” But, she stresses that whilst “[n]umerous such goods and services have been developed to expand the options for enhancing physical attractiveness … at the current stage of technology, scope for improvements in beauty remains fairly limited, and the monetary costs generally outweigh the monetary benefits.”

In an opinion piece on the same subject, Eva Sierminska poses a more controversial question: “Rather than fighting against people being judged on their looks, why don’t we make an effort to at least to look our best given the resources that we have?” She concludes that “given the evidence proving that good-looking, well-presented people are more successful, we could all use a little guidance on making the best of what we already have.”

Related articles
Beauty pays but does investment in beauty?, by Soohyung Lee
Does it pay to be beautiful?, by Eva Sierminska
Opinion: It pays to be beautiful: Investments in appearance lead to success in the workplace, by Eva Sierminska